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Can-do authority has more pilots than Heathrow

Gateshead

Gateshead has improved its GCSE results by 50 per cent since 1998.

The success is symptomatic of concerted efforts to regenerate the area following the decline of its mining and heavy industries.

The area has more children eligible for free school meals than both the national average and North-east Lincolnshire (see right).

And regeneration funding, which has given the area a boost with the construction of the Baltic art gallery in Newcastle, has also been used to combat social exclusion among young people.

Schools have provided a varied vocational and academic curriculum for 14 to 19-year-olds in an effort to keep them engaged in education.

Maggie Atkinson, Gateshead's director of learning and culture since September last year, is not shy about shouting about the achievements of schools in the area. "I have never worked anywhere quite like it. It is the most united, most can-do LEA," she said.

Having volunteered for trials of the children's trust concept, key stage 3 strategy, 14-19 pathfinders, local authority compacts with the Department for Education and Skills and extended schools, among others, the authority admits it has been involved with "more pilots than Heathrow".

But she said: "There is no one magic button we have pressed to make things improve." The quality of teaching and school leadership as well as the importance of collaboration between schools, parents, industry and the wider community, have all contributed to improvements.

Those improvements have resulted in the proportion of pupils gaining five or more A*-C GCSE results rising from 39.6 per cent in 1998 to 59.8 per cent last year, the largest increase in the country.

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